It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.
There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day.
1. My coworker prayed that I’ll return to Jesus
I’m the writer whose colleague prayed for me to come back to Jesus even though she knew I was Jewish. I talked to my boss and also HR even though I knew it would be a lost cause. Nothing was really done minus for them to tell her to stay away from me. Thankfully, she did. A month ago, she retired. There was a huge building party for her that was thankfully on one of my remote days so I could avoid going. Good riddance to her.
This has definitely made me re-think working in the division of the university I do, and I am actively job searching in a different school at the university as well as other universities in my city. I have a few applications in but no bites yet, but I polished my resume and cover letter with the help of the on campus Career Center as I am also a part-time student.
These things have hit my mental health hard. I’m not doing well between being stressed over work and dealing with post-COVID issues, but I am managing. I know there are other departments and divisions that are not toxic. And there are several universities in my city. I have hope of better days. I figure as long as I have hope, then I’m hanging in there.
Thanks for posting my original letter and all your wonderful advice. It’s helped me a lot over the years.
2. Can I get my coworker to stop using awful corporate jargon?
Like many commenters noted, my aggravation with my coworker’s choice of corporate jargon was a real “bitch eating crackers” sort of thing. Jargon can be grating in the best workplace, but the reality was, this coworker also been aggressive and condescending toward me from day one, and when I brought up the issue with my boss, my grandboss, and HR personnel, everyone was in agreement that this person had a “strong history of disproportionate criticism” — and no one expressed any interest in making any sort of change. Her bullying was dismissed with “But she’s such a great worker,” which was weird, because when I joined, I was tasked with completing a project she’d been managing and discovered it was missing so much work it was effectively nonfunctional. The situation forced a change in release date while I rushed to build out more than half of the program and write more than 18,000 words of necessary new content (most of which happened while the bully was on maternity leave). The whole project was the opposite of great work on her part.
As you can probably guess, the work environment surrounding this situation was pretty awful overall. We were working internationally in an aid context and doing things that I felt were often mismatched to needs, or in one notable case, likely to be destructive to the organization we had pushed into a collaboration with us. One major project involved volunteers, and one had severe founder’s syndrome, which was causing ethical issues that the manager and grandboss acknowledged but refused to address. I had a painful and preventable work injury, and my direct supervisor spent half of a weekly meeting reprimanding me for the harm I caused her (!) by reporting it as per company protocol (!!). The list goes on.
Eventually, facing the prospect of traveling internationally with the bully, I just… couldn’t force myself one step farther. I resigned with nothing else lined up, knowing I could freelance and had enough in the bank to cover an eight-month job search. The bully was promoted on my last day, so she would’ve become my direct supervisor if I stayed. I felt I’d dodged a bullet.
Here’s the plot twist: it took less than eight weeks to be offered three new roles, including being snatched up by a place that values my creativity, is far more functional, and is paying me DOUBLE what the last place did. It’s a big change for me and my family, and while it’s mighty early to draw any conclusions, I’ve considered that I might end up retiring from this place — in 30 years. We’ll see. For now, I’m just so relieved and happy to have that last place in the rearview.
Oh, and no one at my new job is saying “touch-base.” Which is nice, too.
3. My abusive boss was fired after I complained about her — what do I say to coworkers? (earlier updates here and here)
I first wrote you in December 2019 about how to deal with the aftermath of blowing the whistle on a serially abusive manager (“Hedra”) who suddenly resigned after HR found in my favor. Shortly after my first update, Hedra’s enabling boss (“Jared,” he-who-swore-and-shouted) also resigned. His successor Cecil then began legally, compassionately, and efficiently cleaning house.
I’ve now been promoted twice in a company where that’s unusual, resulting in significant salary bump. Even happier news is, I successfully fought for my team to hire a quiet overachiever (Kaya) I recruited away from a much smaller role in another department. She’s as great as I hoped and has just been promoted! Another previously-overlooked colleague (Lindsey) moved to our team and was promoted too. This means our team is being noticed as a place where women can be themselves and still thrive. (We’re in tech.) This rep has been a well-deserved feather in the cap for our manager Owen (who has taught me loads and has been so patient when I occasionally experience episodes of PTSD) and grandboss Cecil.
On the note of mental health—it took me a long time and the help of a book called “Forgive for Good,” but I have forgiven the one remaining employee (Amy) who directly participated in harassing me. She was Hedra’s other report and is still here. Like most follower types, Amy is currently harmless under good managers. I pushed myself to be collaborative and professional after Hedra left, but I didn’t stop wishing Amy her “just desserts.” The book was critical in that it let me see what a long-term burden I was taking on in exchange for the dark, momentary pleasure of righteous anger. First, I was able to nudge Hedra and Jared out of my brain, and am now at a point where I could be normally happy for Amy if she overachieved on her goals and was promoted. That to me is a victory. Carrying the burden of hatred numbed me to joy. After I quietly forgave Amy, the news of Kaya and Lindsey’s promo hit and I felt like I’d won the lottery—it made me so happy, I was goofy with it.
I’m going to share one last thing: the reason Jared gave for resigning. He announced that he’d been offered a position that he knew would be his life’s work, and even though our Big Tech asked him to please stay, he had to carpe diem. According to LinkedIn, he went to sit on the board of an also-ran delivery app available in just a handful of cities. The gap is so painful, most people in my org who remember Jared take it for granted he was fired.
4. How do I tell my coworker not to bring his kids to work every week? (first update here)
I have a good news update! I’ve finally been moved to an above-ground office that isn’t full of cubicles. It’s still a shared space, but I have two wonderful office mates who are great about coordinating our schedules so that we don’t disrupt each other, and I should be getting news of being converted to an ongoing contract soon.
I also put my reading of your site to good use so that I could stay in this office. I submitted a request for accommodations to get a UV filter added to my window, and the person in charge of accommodations for my department suggested moving me back to the windowless basement cubicle pit of despair. I used what I learned on Ask a Manager to professionally push back and explain that I did not want to lose the professional opportunities afforded to me by being in the same building as my colleagues. And they listened! It was a little scary, but I had good support from the folks who work with disability accommodations and also from knowing that I wasn’t asking for anything ridiculous.
Thanks so much for answering questions big and small!